NBA Draft: Three Latino Stars to Watch

With Kentucky's Anthony Davis all but signed to the New Orleans Hornets as the consensus top pick in tonight's NBA Draft, other teams are working round the clock today as their final decisions near.

This year's draft is steep especially at the center and guard positions opening the door to a select few that will live out their dreams.

But Syracuse's Fab Melo, Iona's Scott Machado and Cal's Jorge Gutierrez still maintain hope that their names will get called at some point in the draft tonight.

Of the three, Melo, a 7-footer from Brazil and the Big East Defensive Player of the Year most likely will go in the late stages of the first round and could improve anyone's front court because of his shot blocking ability and willingness to rebound.

As the sport continues to grow in the Caribbean and Latin America, so does its presence across NBA rosters. Compared to just two players from the region in the NBA 10 years ago, today's NBA teams have 18 players from the area.

You can see that enough talent is coming out from the region. We're seeing that the professional leagues, at a local level, are improving.

- Phillippe Moggio of the NBA

Since joining the NBA as its vice president of Latin America in 2010, Phillippe Moggio has been spearheading the league's drive to grow the game by coordinating camps and even a preseason game in Mexico City between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers.

"You can see that enough talent is coming out from the region. We're seeing that the professional leagues, at a local level, are improving. You have Brazil, Argentina, which has a beautiful basketball tradition and (the league) is well organized," Moggio recently told Fox News Latino during the NBA Finals in Miami.

"Mexico is making a grand effort to promote the game. In Colombia you're seeing movements. In the Dominican Republic, you have three stars from there and the league is very good. I think we are going to keep getting more talent."

Iona guard Machado's stock rose during his senior season and over the last month has worked out for numerous teams. The only obstacle in his way is a bevy of guards that will go before him in the first round and most likely pushing down to the second round. The New York City kid who's been invited to represent Brazil at the Olympics feels that the doors to the NBA will be opened tonight.

However, both the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets could use his help at the point.

"I just want to prove myself as a point guard and that I can play in the NBA. This is what I want to do," Machado said. "I feel good about it. I feel like the door is right there for me. I feel like I can make an impact and most teams kind of realize that."

Out of the trio, Gutierrez’s name doesn’t appear in mock drafts but he still maintains faith that his name will be among the 60 chosen.

Facing better players in draft workouts, he said he just had to work harder. One NBA scout sees him going in the second round.

After all he's gone through, from entering the United States from Mexico as a 15-year-old and staying in Denver in a one-bedroom apartment with two other teenagers to struggling to eat as he excelled on the court to moving on to Cal where he became the Pac 12 Player of the Year, there's nothing that will hold him back.

"It was a difficult experience but that experience helped grow as a player, as a son, as a friend, as a brother," Gutierrez said.

Hopefully all three will call the NBA their home tonight -- and, more importantly, keep building Latin America’s presence in the league.